Massenburg, who grew up in Los Angeles, said the landmark mural was inspired by performance poet and World Stage co-founder Kamau Daaood’s poem “Leimert Park.” The artist selected the poem because, “I thought it was the best thing written about the whole community. It says everything.”
Some of the actual words from the poem are inscribed in the mural, while other parts of the mural visually play off the poem’s content.
“I wanted to create a visual written history artistically through his poem and my imagery,” said the California State University, Long Beach graduate. The mural has the appearance of a peeling page, with the images of artists that have played a role in establishing Leimert Park as the epicenter of black culture in Los Angeles breaking through.
World Stage co-founder and master jazz drummer Billy Higgins, former Vision Theatre owner actress Marla Gibbs, 5th Street Dick owner Richard Fulton, Brockman Gallery owners Dale and Alonzo Davis are a few of the images reflected in the mural. He also felt that it was also important to include names like Ben Caldwell of Kaos, the Kimbro Family and Sika.
However, Massenburg not only wanted “Visions” to reflect Leimert Park’s history, but its future as well. “I wanted to have people who were the foundation, but I also wanted to depict the next generation,” he said.
While contemplating how to blend the images together, Massenburg heard this young female poet with her band. He was so taken with her performance, that he snapped her picture and included her image in the mural. Her name is Nicky Black.
“All my murals tell a story in some kind of way,” said Massenburg. “When I’m doing public art, I think it’s important to be able to tap into things that people can relate to.”
Massenburg’s list of public artwork clients includes Verizon, MTA Metro, ESPN, American Jazz Museum and the Forum in Inglewood. His next project is another commission from the Department of Cultural Affairs, two murals for a public pool in Van Ness Park.